Around Town | April 13, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 13, 2012

Around Town

LANE CHANGES ... First it was tree removals. Then it was cell antennas. These days, lane changes are the grassroots scandal du jour in Palo Alto. The City Council wasn't planning on discussing traffic lanes this week, but residents and merchants had their own agenda. First, the council heard from a group of Middlefield Road residents who were shocked to discover late last month that their block had been re-striped in a way that significantly shrinks a bicycle lane, creates new turning lanes, eliminates parking spots in front of several homes (thanks to a fresh coat of red paint on a curb) and prevents some residents from turning left from their driveways unless they choose to cross two sets of double-yellow lines and risk incurring a hefty traffic ticket. Next came the California Avenue merchants, who were upset about the city's plan to reduce lanes from four to two on the commercial strip. The merchants had already delayed the project for at least a year by filing two lawsuits against the city, thus preventing Palo Alto from getting a grant for the project. Jack Morton, former vice mayor and one of the leaders of the opposition, said the merchants met with staff last week to discuss a possible settlement. Morton, an accountant whose Cambridge Avenue practice is a block away form California Avenue, reiterated his position that the city is ignoring the merchants' concerns about the lane reduction. City officials had analyzed traffic conditions and determined that the plan would not cause a significant traffic impact. But Morton said the merchants aren't buying this conclusion. "None of the merchants believe that staff has their interest at heart," he said. He called for the city to conduct a trial project before the lane change becomes permanent. "If the merchants lose, they lose their business," Morton said. "If the city puts in a trial, it will just delay the project a year."

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